Information for Students
The Institute for Actual Innocence is a multifaceted academic program within the University of Richmond School of Law. The institute partners with attorneys and community leaders to seek post-conviction relief for wrongfully convicted prisoners in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The institute operates primarily under two Virginia statutes that provide an avenue for wrongfully convicted prisoners to seek post-conviction relief and takes cases on the basis of newly discovered biological and/or non-biological evidence that strongly supports a prisoner's innocence.
Second- and third-year students working with the Institute for Actual Innocence take a two-credit Wrongful Convictions course. The course is oriented toward legal theory and addresses the many causes of wrongful convictions. Prominent guest lecturers are often part of the course offering.
Subjects covered by the course include:
- Forensic science and DNA in the criminal justice system
- Eyewitness identification issues
- Ineffective assistance of counsel
- False confessions
- Remedies and reform
- Prosecutorial misconduct
The small group seminar fosters dynamic class discussion and helps build the relationships necessary for the collaborative fieldwork that follows in the clinical program.
If you are a current, incoming, or prospective student interested in the classroom component of the institute, please contact the institute’s director, Mary Kelly Tate.
After immersion in the causes of wrongful convictions during the seminar, students enroll in a two credit-hour clinic open to second and third years. A significant portion of the work is done collaboratively in teams. The clinic is the academic space in which students perform legal work for clients seeking exoneration or clemency relief. The legal work spans the full spectrum of legal skills from research and writing and analysis to negotiation, strategy and litigation. Students visit prisoners, interview witnesses, collaborate with forensic experts, investigate crime scenes and do many other tasks connected to the comprehensive scope of each case and its legal needs.